Monday, July 31, 2017

July Groceries and Meals Out, Part 2

We have $116.56 left from July's allocation.  Then we have to move into our cushion of $307.25.

What we ate:  cheese filled burgers with mushroom wine sauce; shrimp scampi salad with olive cheese bread; grilled salmon burgers from the freezer with sauteed kale, peaches and yogurt and olive cheese bread;  mooshu from the freezer, homemade fried rice, Asian broccoli, mixed fruit salad with honey and lime; salmon macaroni salad with mixed fruit salad and garlic crackers; ribs, corn on the cob, fresh fruit salad; leftovers; leftover ribs, baked potatoes and zucchini; bacon wrapped shrimp, broccoli salad and fried rice from the freezer; soup from the freezer, salami and cheese sandwich, leftover broccoli salad; leftovers times two

What we bought:

Bread Store:  English muffins, bagels, Monk's apple cinnamon bread, double fiber bread.   $3.28

Save a Lot:  quart of chopped garlic,  dry milk, reduced bananas, reduced strawberries, reduced fresh ginger.   $16.51

Walgreen's:  sugar $1.89

CSA:  corn, potatoes, black raspberries, zucchini, broccoli, onion. $15

Tops:  6.3 lb. Roasting chicken.  $4.29

CSA:  tomatoes, peaches, cherries, beets, beet greens, green beans, acorn squash, cauliflower.   $15

Then, we killed the budget by taking a trip to Pittsburgh's Strip District.  And I do mean killed it.  Here is what we bought.

PrestiGious Coffee and Tea:  5 lbs. Specialty coffee  $50.37.    Mike loves this coffee but, because of the cost we make it last.

Pennsylvania Macaroni Company:  gallon of extra virgin olive oil and 16 oz. jar of capers $27.48.   Both will last a LONG time.

Market Outlet:  Romano cheese (2),  dry salad dressing mix  (4), marshmallows (2),  snack items(6),  crackers (4)  $24.90

Meals Out:

Lunch at IKEA:  $14.75

Dinner at Pita Pit:  $7.75

Lunch on way to Rochester:  $10.75

Lunch coming home from Rochester:  $22.90

The last half of the month we spent $188.72 on food and $56.15 on restaurant meals for a total of $244.87.  We only had $116.56 left from July's food allocation.  The result is we went into the cushion by $128.31 (see the Pittsburgh trip above). That means our cushion is now down to $178.94.

The good news is that it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.  The better news is that our pantry is now getting to be full.  And remember, we are working off the thrifty allocation, including both meals at home and meals out.

But, if I want money to stock up on holiday specials this November and December I need to add to the cushion in August, September and October.  Wish me luck.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Refrigerator Organization to Prevent Waste

 Over the years I have developed an organisational plan for my refrigerator.  It helps me keep food waste to a minimum and that saves me money.

So here is what I do.  You may find a different system works for you.

On the day of my CSA delivery, or the day I am heading to the grocery store for produce, I clean out a crisper drawer, putting everything I have into one drawer.  The now empty drawer is for the newly purchased vegetables and fruits. That way I use the older items before the newer.  If I can't get it all into one drawer, I really don't need to restock, I need to use it up or freeze some of what I have before it goes bad.

One shelf is only for leftovers to be lunch or makeovers.  Otherwise they get lost and go bad.

On another shelf, it's the bottom shelf in my refrigerator, I keep a box for cheese so that it doesn't end up lost all over fridge because of the smaller packages.

One part of a shelf, the top shelf for me, is where the eggs and bread items go so I don't inadvertently squash the bread or run out of these important basics.  The rest of that shelf is for miscellaneous items like yogurt, cottage cheese, oj, and such  things as milk/half and half and cream.

The door is for condiments and the top shelf of the door is for butter, and other basics I need to be able to easily keep track of or access.

By keeping track of items like this I am more likely to make sure they are used before they turn into science experiments.  If you know where it is you can use it before it goes bad.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

My CSA and Thrift

Community Supported Agriculture

I don't garden.  I've tried but I have less than ideal conditions ( small city lot and lots of shade, backyard patio that is the yard, all of it, and very limited front yard that faces north).

So I just buy from the farmer in the form of belonging to a CSA.

Mike and I bought a half share this year.  It runs from June to October.  If you've been reading my bimonthly grocery posts you know what we have been getting so far:  zucchini, onions, strawberries, potatoes, lettuce, rhubarb, kale, corn, beets, peas, cherries, cantaloupe, blueberries, raspberries, green peppers, green beans, broccoli, black raspberries .

Although not certified organic because of the cost of going through the process, I am comfortable with how these vegetables have been grown.  They taste fresh and wonderful.  We have been eating like kings.

And, I have had enough extra to freeze zucchini, strawberries, rhubarb, peas, blueberries, raspberries , green beans and corn so far.  They will taste wonderful later this year.

We pay about $15 a week for our half share.

So is it strictly frugal?  No.  I could find fruits and vegetables cheaper in the grocery store.   However, we would probably not have the variety and they wouldn't be anywhere near organic.  They also wouldn't be local.  And, they wouldn't be as fresh.  Also, I wouldn't be supporting a local farmer.

For the few extra dollars it is worth it to me.  Everyone has to make their own decision on this one.  We have enough wiggle room in our budget to make it work. You may not.  We didn't either for years.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Big Bread Store Discounts

I love to bake bread.

And bagels, English muffins, tortillas, pitas.........

But not in the summer in the heat and humidity.  Call me a foul weather baker.

And, let's face it, sometimes life gets in the way and there literally is no time to breathe let alone bake bread.

That is when I head to my local day old bread store.

We try to go on Monday for an additional 15%military discount.  Every penny saved counts.  They all add up into dollars eventually.

Most visits we buy a variation on the following:

Monk's Bread, apple cinnamon, normally $3.99 ; every day price at the bread store $0.89

Thomas's Onion Bagels normally $4.99 ; every day price at the bread store $1.19

Arnold's Double Fiber Bread normally $3.99 ; every day price at the bread store $0.89

Strohman's English Muffins normally $2.99; every day price at the bread store $0.89

Military discount 0.58

Total cost:  3.28.

We saved$12.68 over normal grocery store prices.

Well worth the trip.

Could I make them for less.  Yes.  But did I mention I get really cranky when I'm hot?  :) 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Thrifty in the Kitchen

Fancy ingredients are expensive ingredients.  Simple ingredients are thrifty ingredients.

Ingredients like chicken and beans, ingredients that can be used in more than one recipe, end up being frugal ingredients.

Tougher cuts of meats that you can marinade to tenderize and flavor, or cook slowly in your crockpot, are budget wise purchases.  Steak and lobster are not unless you can find a great sale.

Root vegetables are cheap vegetables.  Think onions, potatoes,carrots and garlic.

Eggs are versatile, a great source of protein and inexpensive, especially on sale when you should stock up.

Keep a bag in your freezer for vegetable scraps and when it is full make your own vegetable stock.  Do the same with beef, pork and chicken bones and meat trimmings.  Your own broth will be less salty, taste fresher and cost a lot less.

Have leftover or stale bread?  Make bread crumbs, croutons and sweet or savory bread pudding.  Or use it where you won't notice:  French toast, regular toast, bruchetta, garlic bread.

Have a lot of shelf stable items in your kitchen such as beans, rice, pasta, and some canned goods.  These will help you put together meals for less.

Use spices to make inexpensive ingredients taste different and wonderful.

Be careful not to over buy perishables like fruits and vegetables because that can lead to expensive waste when things spoil.

Any food you throw away is expensive food.  Use it up.  If you can't use it now, put it in the freezer before it spoils and use it later.

Cook as much from scratch as you can.  Convenience food is expensive food.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

July Groceries, Part 1

For July we get $381.61 to spend on food.  We also have a cushion of $307.25.  So, theoretically, we could spend a total of $688.86 this month.  I sure hope I don't.  But, summers can be more expensive due to the CSA.  And then there are the season's special deals I like to take advantage of to build up my stockpile.  So, I expect we will spend some of the cushion in support of that good cause.

So, for the first half of July my here is the breakdown:

What we ate:  leftover pizza; leftover buffet (2); leftover brats and sauerkraut with tomato and mozzarella salad and fresh peaches; salmon/spinach/feta burgers with salad and baked beets; applesauce BBQ chicken with slaw and potato salad; leftover cheeseburger scalloped potatoes from the freezer with tomatoes, roasted broccoli and fried cabbage; Pulled BBQ chicken sandwiches topped with coleslaw, tomatoes and cucumber salad, watermelon; mooshu from freezer with quinoa fruit salad with honey mustard dressing; frozen seafood crepes with sauteed beet greens and salad; leftover pizza

What we bought:

CSA:  lettuce, onion, corn, cherries, broccoli, peas  $17

Giant Eagle:  eggs (2)  $0.98

Giant Eagle:  2 pints ice cream, one jar instant decaf coffee (for iced coffee)  $6.50

Walgreen's:  green olives (2), black olives; 18 oz. jar of decaf coffee (4)  $18.93

CSA:  green beans, green peppers, beets and beet greens, raspberries, blueberries, cantaloupe , peaches, apples  $17

Aldi:  mushrooms (2), pretzels, multi color peppers, olives, shrimp, prunes, 10 pounds potatoes, blue cheese, feta cheese, parmesan cheese(3) for pesto to freeze. $29.75

Country Fair:  potato chips (2)  $5

Tim Horton:  donuts and coffee $3.18

Salvage (probably the last until late September or October):  oil (gal), flour, sugar, vegetable broth, chicken broth, quinoa, oatmeal (2), popcorn, cornmeal, Ritz crackers, multigrain crackers (2), maple syrup (pint), soup, rice, frosted mini wheats (2), honey nut O's (2),  m&m's (2 large for cookies), raisins (2), sugar cones, taco boats, panko, cat food, cheez it's, corn tortillas, flour tortillas, coffee (4), butter beans, red enchilada sauce, chopped clams, Greek vinaigrette, Russian dressing, natural peanut butter, spaghetti sauce, dried apricots, honey roasted almonds, slivered almonds. $63.47

Meals Out:
Aunt Millie's for lunch on way to N.Y.  $14.17
Aunt Cookie's sub for lunch coming home from N.Y.  $8.31
Dinner with Jim and Robin. $35.76  WOW!!!  We had leftovers but still.
Lunch with Angela $17
Birthday dinner $8
Lunch after salvage: $ 20.00

In total, $ 161.81 was spent on groceries and $ 103.24 was spent on meals out.  That means a grand total of $  265.05 was spent during the first half of July.  Of the $ 381.61 allocated to July, we have $ 116.56 remaining for the second half of the month.  My freezer is almost full.  My cupboards are stocked.  So maybe we will be OK. 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Saving on Non Food Items

Shopping sales and using coupons isn't just for food.  In fact, I use more non food coupons than food coupons.

Penney's periodically gives out in store coupons for $10 off a $10 purchase.  The last time they did so my husband and I managed, by shopping sales, to purchase $66 worth of clothes for gifts and only spent $3.66.

 Using a $10 off a $25 purchase Penney's coupon we managed to purchase six bath towels and two hand towels for $22.18 with tax.  We saved $55.08.

Free photo deals at drug stores can result in some great gifts.  My dad, at 87, really doesn't need more stuff.  But, new pictures of his great grandchildren can be a real hit.

Back to school sales and coupons are great for stocking up on copy paper, pens, mechanical pencils, sharpie markers, staples, tape, etc.  They are also great for buying children's art supplies for later gifts from grandma and grandpa.

Wal-Mart recently had 24 packs of Crayola sidewalk chalk on sale.  I haven't seen any in thrift stores for quite awhile, so I stocked up.  My grandchildren love sidewalk chalk.

Starbucks often has half price sales between two and  five.  My husband and I will periodically indulge our coffee addiction then.  If we have a gift card (generous daughters) it's even better.

Restaurant coupons are great for when we want to or must eat out.  If we don't have a coupon we look for the $1 menu.  If there isn't one we usually order one entree and split it. We enjoy eating out and by keeping the cost under control we can do it more often.

I shopped a sale at Walgreen's , used two $3 coupons, and got two normally priced bottle of oxiclean detergent for $0.99.  The bottle does 26 loads at about $0.04 per load.  That's cheaper than the $0.06 per load for my homemade detergent.  Normally, the detergent would have cost $7.49 which would work out to about $0.40 per load.  I love great deals.

Another Walgreen's deal I did was on the 12 roll pack of Charmin.  Normal price is $8.99.  It was on sale for $4.99.  By using a coupon I lowered the price to $3.99.  That makes the price per roll $0.33.  Normally the price per roll would be $0.75.  I bought two twelve packs because I had two coupons.

My final Walgreen's deal was on Bounty in the six pack.  Normally the package is $7.49 or $1.25 per roll.  The sale took the price to $4.99 and my coupon dropped the price to $3.99 or $0.67 per roll.  These six rolls will last me about a year.

So, look at those advertisements and match them with coupons to see what deals you can score.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Composting for the lazy but patient

I am all for composting my kitchen and yard waste.  It's good for Mother Nature and a great way to build up the soil in gardens and flower beds.  And, it is frugal.

All your plant based kitchen waste can be composted as can grass clippings and leaves.  So much better to make something useful from them rather than put them in the landfill.

Usually, compost goes in big bins, is built in layers, and needs to be periodically turned so that the stuff from the outside end up in the center and the stuff from the center end up on the outside.  This helps things decompose into compost faster.

I get that.  Really.  But I'm just not thrilled with turning decomposing kitchen waste.  So I compost in a way that is much easier, although slower.  I use a series of garbage cans.

First, I have my husband drill some holes in the bottom, sides and lid.  Then, we place them on blocks or bricks to allow air flow.  The first layer is always newspaper followed by grass or leaves.  Then I start adding plant based kitchen waste and egg shells.  Don't add greasy things, fat or meat.  They slow the decomposing way down and could attract unwanted critters.

The holes provide drainage and airflow, and the holes in the top allow rain to get in and keep things moist.  This will aid in decomposition.

Once you start adding kitchen scraps you will be pleasantly surprised at how long it takes to fill the garage can.  This is because as things decompose they shrink down and settle, allowing you to add more.

Once the can is full, add a layer of grass, leaves or shredded paper,  wet things down, put on the lid and move on to can two.  I usually have three cans going at once.

Decomposition is faster in warmer months and slows down as things get colder.  I've found that where we live it takes about a year for things to reach compost level.  Different climates will be faster or slower.

It is compost when it looks dark and rich and you can no longer identify the ingredients that made it.

And no, it is not smelly.  If you begin to notice a smell add a layer of newspaper, grass or leaves and wet things down well.

Also, we have never attracted unwanted critters.

Best of all, it I easy.

Help Mother Nature.  Save money.  Save work.  A triple play.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Clean Without Cleaning Out Your Wallet

Manufactured cleaning products are expensive.  And, it seems you need a special one for every cleaning task.  The dollars quickly add up.

Also, upon reflection, you may not like that idea of using so many potentially harmful chemicals with names you can't pronounce in your home.  I know I don't.

I also was not fond of all the packaging that I kept sending to the landfill.

So, I did some research and started making my own.  The homemade versions work well for me.  I know exactly what is in them.  I reduce the packaging I need to dispose of.  And, I save some money to be used for something more fun than cleaning.

Below are some ideas for making your own cleaning products.  I would say enjoy but somehow that doesn't sound right when talking about cleaning.  :)

All Purpose Cleaner:  Mix 2T of Dawn with 2 cups water and put it into a recycled spray bottle.  This cleans kitchen and bathroom counters, stove tops, woodwork, fridge surfaces, kitchen tables and more.

Glass and Mirror Cleaner:  Mix equal parts of white household vinegar and water and keep in a recycled spray bottle.  Also good for stainless steel and metal kitchen sinks.

Toilet Bowl Cleaner:  Sprinkle baking soda on the surface of the water.  Pour in some household vinegar and let it fizz. Scrub with your toilet brush and then flush.  The vinegar will help kill germs.  And, if you have  pets that insists on using this big water bowl, you no longer have to worry about what dangerous chemicals they are all drinking.

Scouring powder:  Baking soda is a very gentle scouring powder.  Use salt if you need something stronger.

Rug deodorizer:  Fill an old parmesan container with baking soda.  Sprinkle on your carpet and let sit for a few minutes then vacuum.  Baking soda is a good deodorizer for lots of things.  Try it with funky smelling plastic containers, litter boxes, trash cans, smelly sneakers and more.

Counters:  To sanitize spray with vinegar, let sit for a minute, wipe.

Shower surfaces:  To help prevent mold and mildew spray with vinegar and let dry.

 To clean floors:  Use a solution of vinegar and water.  No soapy residue that seems to attract dirt.

Faucets and shower heads:  Soak with vinegar to remove calcium and lime deposits.

Softener in your wash:  Just a quarter cup of vinegar will soften the entire load.

Laundry detergent:  There are several versions.  You can make a liquid by dissolving soap and adding borax and soda;  you can make a dry version by grinding up the bars of soap;  or you can be lazy and just add Dawn to the dry ingredients and mixing well.  When I first started I made the liquid but it took a long time and needed a lot of storage space.  Then I figured out how to make a powdered version.  Faster and easier to store.  Then one day I needed detergent and was out of soap so I figured out how to make a super easy and fast version with Dawn.  I now use both powdered versions depending on how lazy I feel.  (Just keeping it real.)  Below are the actual recipes.  Wal-Mart stocks the needed ingredients.

Liquid: half a cup each of washing soda and borax, one third bar of Fels Naptha soap and 6 cups of water heated until everything dissolves.  In a LARGE container add the mixture to 5 quarts water and stir.  Let sit overnight to gel.  Use one half cup per load

Powder:  grate 8 oz of Fels Naptha, mix with 1 cup each of washing soda, baking soda and borax.  Mix well.  Use 2Tbs per load.  I use my food processor to grate the soap and mix everything together.

Powder Version Two:  one half cup each of borax, washing soda, baking soda and Dawn mixed together well.  Use 2Tbs per load.  Again, I use my food processor to make sure everything mixes well.

Dishwasher Detergent:  1 cup each of borax and washing soda mixed with one half cup kosher salt and one half cup unsweetened lemonade mix ( I use two packets of unsweetened lemonade Koolaid and it works fine).  Use 1Tbs per load.  Use vinegar in the rinse aid dispenser for fewer spots on your dishes.

So, go out and buy a LARGE box of baking soda, a box of washing soda, a box of borax, a jug of household vinegar, a bar of Fels Naptha, a bottle of Dawn and some unsweetened lemonade Koolaid and you are set.

Wish I could honestly say enjoy.  :)

Monday, July 3, 2017

Shop Till You (see your budget) Drop

This last month I have gone grocery shopping many times and in many places.  This breaks a rule that many people follow:  Shop only once a week or less.

Why do I break this well known rule?  Because for me it saves money.

 I shop many times in many stores to take advantage of loss leaders being advertised.  A loss leader is an item that the store sells at or below cost as an incentive to get you into the store where they hope you will do all your grocery shopping for that week.

But, if you have the resolve to go in and just buy the loss leaders you can save a lot.  And, you can buy things you might not normally have the budget for.   For example, let's look at my shopping this last month.

I carefully read the local grocery store adds of several stores, compared the advertised price with normal price, and went to each to purchase only the loss leaders that worked for me.

Here are some of the things I bought:

Steak for $1.99 per pound (a manager's special and a nice treat); boneless skinless chicken breast for $1.79 per pound;  pasta at $1 per pound; eggs at 49 cents per dozen; Bird's Eye frozen vegetables at $1 per pound; bread, English muffins and bagels for 75 cents each; chobani yogurt for 69 cents; two boxes of cereal for a total of 98 cents after coupons; 10 ears of corn for $2; ribs for $1.99 per pound (wonderful for the grill); sweet baby Ray's bbq sauce for $1; a watermelon for $2.99; assorted berries for $1.99 per pound(some for now and some frozen for later); cheese at $2.99 per pound; ground beef at $1.99 per pound; Smithfield bacon at $2 per pound (we love it but not it's usual price)

Many of these items are frozen or stored as part of my stockpile.  We will be eating them until their next good sale.

I went to a few stores to get these deals but to me they were worth it.  We will eat well thanks to these bargains.